Change Hearts, Change Haiti

It has been three years since the catastrophic earthquake that crumbled much of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Hundreds of thousands were killed and over a million lost their homes. Natural disasters can sink countries into deeper despair, or they can be the catalyst for change. Although thousands are still displaced, we’re beginning to see a massive rebuilding effort, improved building regulations and, in the end, we’ll hopefully see safer, cleaner cities in Haiti.

But it’s not only material changes that are taking place—and often it’s the immaterial changes that are the most important.

Many Haitians don’t believe there is any future for them in Haiti. Instead of working for its progress, many seek to leave the country and join the vast Haitian population living abroad. But God has given Compassion’s leaders in Haiti a huge vision: a vision that the Church in Haiti will lead the way in changing their country through transformed hearts.

Mobilizing the Church

In the months following the earthquake, Compassion brought together pastors, leaders and Christian institutions in Haiti to cast a vision for the Church’s role in changing the country. Together, they are mobilizing and challenging the Church to fulfill their mission of bringing hope to the world. Leaders have been seeking to understand some of the social ills, such as corruption, that have plagued Haitian society for decades, and are challenging Haitian Christians to repent and take bold action to change society.

“It is not acceptable that in a country where 35 to 40 per cent of the population claims to be Protestant Christians, corruption is so widespread,” said Edouard Lassegue, Compassion’s vice president of Latin America and the Caribbean. “The church has tolerated this for too long. The church has participated in this for too long. Therefore, a group of Haitian Christians wants to rise up and proclaim the biblical message about the importance of these values in our lives and in our society in general.”

Compassion has led pastors in studying and meditating on topics like integrity, justice and leadership. In turn, they are leading their churches, Sunday schools, Christian schools, and the public in general in contemplating what the Bible has to say on these topics, and what action God is calling them to take.

Photo by Ricot St. Paulin, Compassion Haiti

A Haiti without domestic children

Another campaign to change hearts in Haiti is challenging parents against sending their children into domestic service. After the earthquake, poor children are even more vulnerable to be sent away to be servants. They’re called restavèks—children who are basically treated as slaves and are vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse. Children who grow up as restavèks grow up with a slave mentality and never learn their value as individuals.

“We believe that children deserve a decent life where they can be treated with love and dignity,” said Viker Louis, Compassion Haiti’s child protection officer. “At Compassion, we believe that all children were created in the image of God and should be treated accordingly.”

Through the campaign, “A Haiti without Domestic Children,” Compassion is educating parents against the dangers of sending their children into domestic service. And they are building in parents a vision to develop their children and encourage their talents and abilities.

A new heart for Haiti

It sounds trite, but children are the future. Today’s children will be the ones who will change Haiti tomorrow. Compassion centres have been participating in a campaign called “A New Heart for Haiti.” They are building in children the idea that their country can have a different future and that God can use them to usher in that change.

As part of this campaign, children have given speeches and performed skits that inspire them and their communities on the future God wants to see for Haiti. Children have even recorded messages of hope that are being broadcast throughout the country.

Compassion believes that God truly will raise up a new generation of leaders who can transform their country with integrity and through the gospel.

Change comes slowly. Often it comes not in the form of new buildings, but through the changed hearts of individuals. Please join us in praying that God continues to transform hearts in Haiti and that the Church would rise up to change their country.

Field reporting and photography by Ricot St. Paulin.

Written by: Amber Van Schooneveld

Amber Van Schooneveld is the Managing Editor of Compassion International's blog.